The Weekend Quiz – February 13-14, 2016 – answers and discussion

Here are the answers and discussion for the Weekend Quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of modern monetary theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.
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    The Weekend Quiz – February 13-14, 2016

    Welcome to The Weekend Quiz, which used to be known as the Saturday Quiz! The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention over the last seven days. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.
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      Posted in Saturday quiz | 2 Comments

      Ultimately, real resource availability constrains prosperity

      There are many misconceptions about what a government who understands the capacity it has as the currency-issuer can do. As Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) becomes more visible in the public arena, it is evident that people still do not fully grasp the constraints facing such a government. At the more popularist end of the MMT blogosphere you will read statements such that if only the government understood that it can run fiscal deficits with impunity then all would be well in the world. In this blog I want to set a few of those misconceptions straight. The discussion that follows is a continuation of my recent examination of external constraints on governments who seek to maintain full employment. It specifically focuses on less-developed countries and the options that a currency-issuing government might face in such a nation, where essentials like food and energy have to be imported. While there are some general statements that can be made with respect to MMT that apply to any nation where the government issues its own currency, floats its exchange rate, and does not incur foreign currency-denominated debt, we also have to acknowledge special cases that need special policy attention. In the latter case, the specific problems facing a nation cannot be easily overcome just by increasing fiscal deficits. That is not to say that these governments should fall prey to the IMF austerity line. In all likelihood they will still have to run fiscal deficits but that will not be enough to sustain the population. We are about to consider the bottom line here – the real resource constraint. I have written about this before but the message still seems to get lost.
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        Posted in Debriefing 101, Demise of the Left | 19 Comments

        Balance of payments constraints

        The late Canadian economist Harry Johnson, who came at the subject from the Monetarist persuasion, was correct when he wrote in 1969 (reference below) that “The adoption of flexible exchange rates would have the great advantage of freeing governments to use their instruments of domestic policy for the pursuit of domestic objectives, while at the same time removing the pressures to intervene in international trade and payments for balance-of-payments reasons.” How does this square with those who believe that even currency-issuing governments are constrained in their fiscal flexibility by an alleged balance of payments constraint. So-called progressive economists, particularly, are enamoured with the idea that Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) is flawed because it doesn’t recognise the fiscal limits imposed by the need to maintain a stable external balance. In this blog, we trace the arguments.
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          Posted in Demise of the Left, Economics | 11 Comments

          Is exchange rate depreciation inflationary?

          One of the first things that conservatives (and most economists which is typically a highly overlapping set) raise when Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) proponents suggest that increased deficits are essential to reduce mass unemployment is the so-called balance of payments constraint. Accordingly, we are told that the capacity of a nation to increase domestic employment is limited by the external sector. And these constraints have become more severe in this age of multinational firms with their global supply chains and the increased volume of global capital flows. I will address the specific issue of a balance of payments constraint on real GDP growth (that is, the limits of fiscal stimulus) in a future blog. But today I want to consider the so-called Exchange Rate Pass-Through (ERPT) effects of that are part of the balance of payments constraint story. The mainstream narrative goes like this. Higher wage demands associated with full employment and/or stronger imports associated with higher fiscal deficits lead to external imbalances due to rising imports and loss of competitiveness in international markets (eroding export potential). In a system of flexible exchange rates, the currency begins to lose value relative to all other currencies and the rising import prices (in terms of the local currency) are passed-through to the domestic price level – with accelerating inflation being the result. If governments persist in pursuing domestic full employment policies the domestic inflation worsens and the hyperinflation is the result, with a chronically depreciated currency. Real standards of living fall and a general malaise overwhelms the nation and its citizens. I am sure you have heard that narrative before – it is almost a constant noise coming from the deficit phobes. Like most of the conservative economic claims and I include the austerity-lite Leftist parties in this group, it turns out that reality is a bit different. Here is some discussion on that issue.
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            Posted in Demise of the Left, Hyperinflation, Inflation | 24 Comments

            The capacity of the state and the open economy – Part 1

            Wolfgang Merkel wrote in his recent Op Ed (February 5, 2016) – Economy, Culture And Discourse: Social Democracy In A Cosmopolitanism Trap? – that “we are dealing with a partially deliberate, partially careless surrender of the state’s capacity to regulate and intervene in an economy that structurally creates socio-economic inequality and erodes the fundamental democratic principle of political equality”. I highlight, the “partially deliberate, partially careless surrender” description of what has occurred over the last several decades as neo-liberalism has gained traction. Today’s blog continues my series that will form the content for my next book (due out later this year) about the impacts of globalisation on the capacities of the nation state. Our contention (I am writing this with Italian journalist and author Thomas Fazi) is that there has been no diminuition in the power of the state to impact on the domestic economy. The neo-liberal era has seen many commentators deny that proposition, yet, knowingly advocate use of these powers to further advantage capital at the expense of labour. The state is still central to the picture – it just helps capital more and workers less than it did during the full employment period in the Post World War II decades.
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              Posted in Demise of the Left, Economics | 11 Comments

              The Weekend Quiz – February 6-7, 2016 – answers and discussion

              Here are the answers with discussion for yesterday’s quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of modern monetary theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.
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                The Weekend Quiz – February 6-7, 2016

                Welcome to The Weekend Quiz, which used to be known as the Saturday Quiz! The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention over the last seven days. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.
                Read the rest of this entry »

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                  Posted in Saturday quiz | 1 Comment

                  Australian PBO – hard to take seriously – is it vaudeville or what?

                  The Australian government is currently engaging the population in an agonising discussion about taxation reform and proposed spending cuts. It is almost vaudeville when the Treasurer, or the Opposition Shadow Treasurer or some business leader gets up and gives us their ‘two bob’s worth’ of nonsense. We have a “revenue problem”, “no we don’t, we have a revenue problem”, “we need to raise taxes”, “no we don’t we need to cut spending”. Then the government appoints a former investment banker as Treasury Department head and he starts raving on about how government should limit its spending to a maximum of 25 per cent of GDP without any argument being provided as to why that limit is meaningful, how it is derived, how it can be achieved if desirable, and all the rest of it. Sounds like a good idea. The Eurozone has destructive fiscal rules (Stability and Growth Pact) that we just whipped out of thin air and sounded important. We may as well, like dumb sheep, follow the race to the bottom. Meanwhile, real GDP growth falls further below trend and the disadvantaged workers endure elevated levels of unemployment and hardship. It is enough to drive one to drink. And then yesterday, the Australian Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO), which is one of those neo-liberal concoctions introduced by governments around the world to deflect responsibility for decisions from the politicians and frame the public debate in a particular way, published a new report (February 3, 2016) – National fiscal outlook – Report no. 01/2016. The mind boggles how people can write this stuff and go home at night and take themselves seriously.
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                    Posted in Economics, Fiscal Statements | 25 Comments

                    The reality of Germany and the buffoons in Brussels intervenes …

                    This week, I seem to have been focused on central banking this week, which is not my favourite topic, but is all the rage over the last several days given the decision of the Bank of Japan to use negative interest rates on any new bank reserves and then continue to pump reserves into the system via its so-called QQE policy (swapping public and corporate bonds for bank reserves), and then imposing a tax on the reserves so created. Crazy is just one euphemism which comes to mind. So still on that theme and remembering that the Bank of Japan explicitly stated that the combination of QQE and the tax on reserves (they call it a negative interest rate – same thing) was introduced to increase the inflation rate back up towards its target of 2 per cent per annum, I thought the following paper was interesting. The paper from the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis (published July 2015) – Current Federal Reserve Policy Under the Lens of Economic History: A Review Essay – considers the unconventional monetary monetary policy interventions taken by the US Federal Reserve Bank between 2007 and 2009 and comes to the conclusion that “there is no work, to my knowledge, that establishes a link from QE to the ultimate goals of the Fed inflation and real economic activity”. Maybe the Bank of Japan and the ECB bosses should sent this researcher an E-mail and request his evidence. They don’t seem to have been able to escape from the straitjacket of their neo-liberal Groupthink.
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                      Posted in Central banking, Eurozone | 10 Comments